Monti Carlo wears many hats. She’s currently competing on FOX’s reality cooking show MasterChef. During the day she rocks the mic on the Phoenix radio station, My103.9. Not to mention, she’s a single mom raising her two-year-old son named Danger. (Read on to find out how Danger got his name.)
I had the opportunity to chat with Monti last week to find out more about this her MasterChef experiences.
GG: In a nutshell, describe what it was like to compete on MasterChef.
MC: We were all cooking for our lives! Cooking in the kitchen was stressful because of how pressed we were for time. There were never any scripts…what you see on television is really what it was.
GG: Did you have a catalogue of recipes memorized in your mind for the challenges?
MC: I studied my butt off! The other contestants would go out to the bars after taping, but as an unemployed, single-mom trying to save money I would stay in my hotel room and read cookbooks. I would learn about new techniques and recipe ideas. One night at 3 am I heard a knock on my door and it was Gordon Ramsey! He caught me with wild hair, wearing PJ’s and of course, clenching my cookbook in hand.
GG: What’s your favorite cookbook?
MC: Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food.
GG: Tell me about how you got started cooking. Was it a big part of your Puerto Rican upbringing?
MC: Yes! My Mom and Aunts used to have cook-athons in Puerto Rico when I was little. After my divorce when I was unemployed, I started cooking so I didn’t go crazy! I was living in Washington at the time and my son and I were surviving off food stamps. The local farmers markets would take food stamps, so I would go to the market and bring home dozens of apples. The first thing I mastered was apple pie. I would chop the apples and think of “chopping” my ex-husband the whole time! (Monti’s recipe for “I Hope He Chokes: Caramel Crunch Apple Cup-Pie“)
GG: What’s your secret to apple pie?
MC: I add vodka to the crust. When it evaporates, it makes for an extra-flaky crust.
GG: Back to MasterChef now…Was it hard to overcome the cameras following your every move?
MC: I stopped noticing the cameras pretty quickly because I would get in my zone cooking. When my family and friends saw the episodes on tv they were like, “Wow! That’s so you!” My personality really is the same off-screen.
GG: What about the MasterChef judges?
MC: They are total goofs! And truly amazing men in real life. When I entered the kitchen I was so broken after my divorce and from being unemployed. The judges really reached out and gave me back my confidence and self-esteem.
GG: Do you have any advice for your fans and readers?
MC: My favorite quote is, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” With determination you can do anything! It took me at least 30 tries before I got my apple pie right. You’ve just gotta hustle in life.
GG: Random question–how did you decide to name your son Danger?
MC: I was interviewing Joan Cusack for the radio station I was working for while I was pregnant. I was so emotional on the phone because Jon Cusack (her brother) is on my celebrity make-out list! As I was crying I asked Joan what she thought I should name my baby and she said she had always wanted to name her son Danger. So Joan Cusack picked out Danger’s name!
Monti fuses inexpensive, simple recipes with comfort flair on her blog called Slap Yo Momma. You should check it out! The name comes from a southern saying, “you’ve just tasted food so good it’ll make you want to slap your momma.” How great is that?
MasterChef airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 9/8C on FOX. Watch Monti compete tonight in the Top 9 challenge with sea urchin as the mystery box ingredient!